Getting your feet wet without drowning : transformational change in adolescents from domestic short-term missions

Full Title
Getting your feet wet without drowning : transformational change in adolescents from domestic short-term missions
Andrew Stern
The purpose of this study was to examine how church leaders who participated in a domestic short term mission (STM) during high school engage local community needs years later. While STM is a prevalent and costly event in church youth ministry, little study has been done to measure the impact of adolescent STM on future church leaders.
This research utilized a qualitative design using semi-structured interviews with seven church leaders. As adolescents, they participated in a domestic STM. The interview analysis concluded that participants’ domestic high school STM had significant immediate and long-lasting impact in their vocational calling, leadership development, work in their community, and biases around race and culture.
The literature review reveals that STM has a biblical basis. STM is evidenced in wall-building in Nehemiah 3. The impact of wall-building in Nehemiah 3 is transformational for both individuals and the community in Nehemiah 5.
Contemporary research concludes that STM is a cornerstone of church youth ministry. This study showed the importance of adolescent STM in revealing and affirming ministry calling and leadership gifting. This research affirmed that STM facilitates transformational learning when it is coupled with service learning practices. This transformational learning broke down bias around race and culture. Neurobiological research affirms that adolescent brain development supports this transformational, perspective-changing learning during STM. Global learning objectives aid STM planning and evaluation. Church leaders advocate for STM because they value its role in beginning the process of breaking down bias.
Coinciding with recent STM research, this study affirms that domestic STM is better suited to adolescents when compared to international STM. Domestic STM provides sufficient but not overwhelming challenge to foster transformational learning for adolescents. As one participant said, adolescent domestic STM fosters “getting your feet wet without drowning.”
Degree Granting Institution
United States
Degree Granted
Doctor of Ministry
Type of Work
Tasha Chapman
Number of Pages
Copyright Statement
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